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International News

NEW ZEALAND PROTECTION FOR SEA BIRDS

Better protection for seabirds is being put in place with a new National Plan of Action to reduce fishing-related captures, New Zealand Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced recently.

The National Plan of Action for Seabirds 2020 outlines our commitment to reduce fishing-related captures and associated seabird deaths. The new plan follows wide public consultation launched in November last year.

“The plan focuses on innovative solutions and education to reduce seabird bycatch. It seeks to ensure fishing operators know how to avoid catching seabirds and take the appropriate steps to do so,” said Stuart Nash.

“Aotearoa/New Zealand is a global hotspot for seabirds, including iconic albatross and petrel species that fly thousands of kilometres across the world’s oceans. The actions we take to look after them in New Zealand have a global impact,” said Eugenie Sage.

“Seabirds are among the most threatened groups of birds globally. Fisheries bycatch is one of the greatest threats to many of them, along with invasive predators, disease, pollution, a changing climate and associated environmental change. That’s why the focus of the Action Plan is to reduce seabird deaths from fishing bycatch,” said Eugenie Sage.

“The new National Plan of Action for seabirds plan will support all fishing interests to develop new bycatch mitigation practices and improve practices already in use. These include bird-scaring lines, weighted longlines, fishing at night, avoiding areas important to seabirds, and reducing discharge that attracts birds to fishing boats,” said Stuart Nash.

“Some innovative solutions are already being used. Many current measures have come from industry, who have the technical knowledge needed for workable solutions,” he said.

“The Action Plan has a vision of New Zealanders work toward zero fishing related seabird mortalities. We expect to see all fishers and the industry doing as much as they can to achieve this,” said Stuart Nash.

“The new Action Plan will prompt species-specific actions where there is particular concern about threats to seabird populations. This has occurred already for Antipodean albatross and black petrels and is being done for hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin),” said Eugenie Sage.

“The plan requires all fishing vessels at risk of accidentally catching seabirds to create risk management plans for protected species. These plans will be audited and regularly monitored against government standards” said Stuart Nash.

New Zealand is a global centre of seabird diversity with about 145 of the world’s 346 seabird species using New Zealand waters and 95 species breeding here. New Zealand has more endemic breeding species than any other country in the world. 90% of them are threatened with, or at risk of extinction.

FIRE DEVASTATES "HEART AND SOUL" OF SAN FRANCISCO FISHING INDUSTRY

According to reports by CBS News A huge fire that tore through a warehouse on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf has destroyed fishing gear used to deliver about two-thirds of the city's fresh seafood, threatening to disrupt the upcoming Dungeness crab season.

The fire erupted before dawn Saturday and wiped out the warehouse the size of a football field near the end of Pier 45.

Larry Collins, who runs the San Francisco Community Fishing Association, estimates that thousands of crab, shrimp and black cod traps worth up to $5 million were lost in the blaze. He told the San Francisco Chronicle the numbers could be far higher since port officials changed the warehouse's function into a storage facility in February because it lacked proper fire sprinklers.

"Pier 45 is the heart and soul of commercial fishing out of the Bay Area," Collins said. "To take a hit like this, it's a bad one. Most people don't think about where their salmon, crab or black cod come from, but that's where: It's Pier 45."

The concrete pier is home to a mix of seafood and maritime businesses and tourist attractions, including the Musée Mécanique, a museum devoted to historic arcade games, and the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, a historic World War II liberty ship. They are among numerous tourist attractions on the wharf.

FISHING LESS COULD BE A WIN FOR BOTH NEW ENGLAND LOBSTERMEN AND ENDANGERED WHALES

A new study by researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found that New England's historic lobster fishery may turn a higher profit by operating with less gear in the water and a shorter season. The findings could provide a path forward for the lobster fishing industry, which is under pressure to move away from traditional pot fishing that uses long vertical lines of rope known to entangle and kill endangered North Atlantic right whales and other protected species. The study was published this week in the journal Marine Policy.

In order to maintain healthy fish stocks, many fisheries have a limited season, catch quotas and/or gear restrictions. These measures often reduce associated fishing costs, such as for bait and fuel, while also ensuring that the available fish are bigger and more abundant. Although the U.S. lobster fishery has some restrictions, the trap limit is very high and for the most part fishers can operate year-round.

By evaluating three different scenarios to understand the connection between lobster fishing effort and catch, the researchers found that tightening restrictions could make the industry more profitable in the long run.

In Massachusetts, where a three-month fishing closure was implemented in 2015 in Cape Cod Bay and surrounding areas where North Atlantic right whales come to feed each winter and spring, fishers caught significantly more lobster since the closure was implemented—particularly in the areas most affected by it.

Further north, Canadian fishers in the Gulf of Maine operate with far fewer traps and a six-month season, and catch about the same amount of lobster as their American counterparts with 7.5 times less fishing effort. In Maine, a 10 percent drop in the number of lobster traps fished in recent years has not prevented fishers from bringing in record landings.

Fishing gear entanglements are the most serious threat to the survival of endangered North Atlantic right whales, only about 400 of which are alive today. During peak lobster season, right whales must navigate through more than 900,000 endlines—ropes that connect surface buoys to traps on the seafloor—in waters off the northeastern U.S. coastline, which is an important area for their feeding and migratory habitat.

Understanding the economic implications that right whale protection measures may have is important to the lobster fishing industry and the many communities along New England's coast that it supports, the researchers say. This study shows that reducing the amount of gear in the water or shortening the season does not necessarily mean fishers will catch less, and is in fact likely to benefit the industry in the long-term. This is especially important, given the economic devastation of the current COVID-19 crisis.